Wisconsin’s New and Used Automobile Disclosure Requirements

wisconsin automobile disclosures

Wisconsin automobile dealers are legally required to make specific written disclosures to prospective purchasers related to the automobiles they offer for sale.  The disclosure requirements vary depending upon whether the automobile being sold is new or used.

Wis. Admin. Code § Trans. 139.04, the Wisconsin administrative rule governing written disclosures auto dealers must provide, applies to the sale or lease of any automobile by an auto dealer to a person within the state of Wisconsin—if the automobile is delivered within the boundaries of the state—notwithstanding any contractual agreement between the dealer and person to the contrary.

There are many elements that factor into a prospective purchaser’s decision to purchase an automobile, such as the automobile’s make, model, year, mileage, use history, and condition, to name just a few.  The purpose behind the requirement that Wisconsin auto dealers provide specific and accurate information to prospective purchasers is to help those individuals make an informed decision as to whether, and at what price, to purchase a particular automobile.

This article will identify the specific disclosures Wisconsin auto dealers are required to make related to new and used automobiles they offer for sale.

NEW AUTOMOBILES

Wisconsin automobile dealers must make the following disclosures in writing related to new automobiles: 

  • The model, make and year of the automobile
  • The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) label (also referred to as a “Monroney” sticker), which must include information about the following:
    • Standard equipment
    • Warranty details
    • Engine and transmission specifications
    • City and highway fuel economy ratings
    • Optional equipment and pricing
    • Crash test ratings
  • A dealer supplemental price label describing any additions or deletions from items contained in the manufacturer’s suggested retail price label, if any
  • The dealer supplemental price label, if needed, must include the following items:
    • Dealer installed optional equipment or accessories
    • Any service fee the dealer charges
    • The final dealer asking price
    • Products or services performed by the dealer beyond the manufacturer’s presale delivery obligations
  • Whether the dealer removed or replaced any original parts, equipment or accessories and, if so, whether the replacement items are not of equal quality to those originally installed in the automobile
  • All dealer installed options and accessories and whether or not those options and accessories are covered by a warranty
  • A copy of the pre-delivery test and inspection report made pursuant to the automobile manufacturer’s specifications

USED AUTOMOBILES

With a few exceptions, which are noted below, Wisconsin auto dealers are required to test drive and physically inspect all used automobiles for the following prior to offering them for sale to the public:

  • All significant existing mechanical, electrical and electronic defects and damage
  • Evidence of repair to any of the following:
    • Strut tower
    • Trunk floor pan
    • Frame or structural portion of unibody, including corrective welds

An auto dealer must disclose any problem it could find using reasonable care during the pre-sale inspection on a document called the Wisconsin Buyer’s Guide, which must be displayed within the automobile, attached to a window, if possible.

The inspection disclosures required by Wisconsin law do not create any warranties, express or implied, between the auto dealer and the buyer, nor do they affect any warranty coverage provided for in the purchase contract.

An auto dealer must remedy any item it improperly reported on the Wisconsin Buyers Guide that the dealer could have found using reasonable care if the buyer has notified the dealer within a reasonable time after the buyer discovered the improperly reported item and makes the automobile available to the dealer for repair.  The auto dealer must reasonably remedy or make a good faith effort to reasonably remedy any item improperly reported on the Wisconsin Buyers Guide within 30 days of the buyer’s notification.

Auto dealers are also required to disclose all of the following on a Wisconsin Buyer’s Guide:

  • The automobile’s price, model year, make, model identification number, color, engine size, type of transmission and drive type
  • That the automobile is used
  • All material history and prior use the auto dealer can find using reasonable care, including the following:
    • Personal use
    • Business use
    • Lease use
    • Rental use
    • Demonstrator or executive
    • Driver-education vehicle
    • Police or other government vehicle
    • Taxicab or other public transportation
    • Whether the automobile’s use or history is unknown
  • All title brands the auto dealer can find using reasonable care, including the following:
    • Salvage vehicle
    • Manufacturer buyback (i.e., a “lemon” buyback)
    • Flood or water damaged
    • Transferred to insurer upon payment of a claim
    • Hail damaged
  • The identity of all other states in which the automobile has been previously titled
  • The odometer reading at the time the automobile was obtained by the dealer and a disclosure that either:
    • The odometer reading is known to be actual miles
    • The odometer reading is not the actual miles
    • The odometer reading reflects the amount of mileage in excess of the designed mechanical odometer limit—as corroborated by the prior owner’s odometer disclosure statement
  • That the prospective purchaser is entitled to the name and address of the automobile’s prior owner upon request
  • The availability or existence of dealer warranties, manufacturer’s warranties and service contracts
  • Whether the automobile can be legally operated in accordance with Wisconsin law
  • Whether the automobile meets the definition of a junk vehicle or a salvage vehicle

Wisconsin auto dealers do not need to provide written disclosures on the following automobiles:

  • A used automobile on which the dealer conspicuously displays a written statement providing “Not inspected for sale”
  • A demonstrator or executive vehicle not currently being displayed or offered for sale on the dealer’s lot (i.e., one that is actively being used by the dealer)
  • A used automobile with a gross weight rating of more than 16,000 pounds (this exclusion does not apply to motor homes)
  • A junk vehicle with a written statement providing “This is a junk vehicle”
  • An un-repaired salvage vehicle with a written statement providing “This is a junk vehicle”
  • An automobile sold at the end of a lease

Wisconsin auto dealers do not need to post the Wisconsin Buyers Guide on a motorcycle so long as they either:

  • Provide the guide to any person who asks to review it; or
  • Provide the guide to any person who indicates a desire to make an offer to purchase a motorcycle—before the dealer drafts the purchase offer and before the person delivers an offer to the dealer

Auto dealers must show each prospective purchaser, prior to sale, all odometer disclosure records relating to an automobile since last titled—including the current title and all prior owner odometer disclosure statements

An auto dealer must do the following before delivering any automobile for which the dealer holds a franchise to a retail purchaser:

  • Determine whether the automobile is the subject of any unperformed manufacturer recalls
  • If the automobile is the subject of any unperformed manufacturer recalls for which the manufacturer will reimburse the dealer, perform the recalls
  • Disclose in writing to the purchaser any unperformed recalls with regard to the automobile that have been disclosed to the dealer upon inquiry of the manufacturer 

Any purchaser who suffers damage based an auto dealer’s failure to accurately disclose the legally required information may be entitled to recover his or her damages and costs, including reasonable attorney fees, pursuant to Wis. Stat. § 218.0163(2)